The welter of finger-pointing over
the apparent substance to John Howard’s “clear and present danger”
warning last week misses the point – he remains the Prime Minister who
cried wolf.

It seems not many in the chattering classes of
either political persuasion took much heed of their childhood morality
tales. The boy who cried wolf was telling the truth the third time –
but by then he had lost his credibility.

So it was with John
Howard last week. After not telling the truth about Tampa, or children
overboard, or Iraq, Howard had so severely damaged his credibility that
his warnings of a terrorist threat last week – his fourth cry – was
treated with so much scepticism.

There’s no joy to be had by
the Howard fan club in crowing about the unbelievers being wrong – it
is a tragedy for Australian government that on a matter of national
security, potentially of life and death, the Prime Minister is not
trusted by so many people.

It represents the failure of his
leadership. It doesn’t matter whether you voted for him or not, or
whether you believe the labour market should be more flexible or whether
whaling could be reintroduced on a sustainable basis. Whatever the
policy differences, the Prime Minister should be capable of uniting the
nation when it is genuinely threatened. The doubt and cynicism that
greeted his strange effort last week showed he is not.

makes the sorry situation worse is the support by the Opposition for
that change of a single very small word in piece of legislation did
little to assuage the doubt. Both sides of politics are severely devalued coin.

And the trouble with losing your credibility is that you never really get it back.